What has happened to butlers? They used to be the epitome of discretion and loyalty: but last week the Pope’s former butler, Paolo Gabriele, began an 18-month prison sentence for passing documents from his employer’s desk on to a journalist. The trial of Paoletto, or ‘Little Paul’, as the Pope fondly called him, follows the trial of another butler nicknamed ‘Small Paul’, Paul Burrell, who was also found to have concealed his employers’ property in his home. (The main difference was that, despite hints that a Papal pardon might be forthcoming, Gabriele was not rescued from jail by the intercession of an 80-year-old head of state.)
And in America, a film is being made about Eugene Allen, butler to every president from Eisenhower to Reagan, which promises to show what the butler saw during his years at the White House: Lyndon Johnson, for example, using racial profanities behind closed doors while pushing through the Civil Rights Act.